Diet for rescued honeyeater - insect substitute?

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mwarnes's picture
Diet for rescued honeyeater - insect substitute?

We're currently caring for a young red wattlebird, which fell out of the nest a month ago and was abandoned by his parents about a week ago at the time his flight feathers should have fully grown out. However, only one of his wings has grown out, the other remaining stunted with only a few feathers having grown yet (very slowly but surely, they're coming along).

We've been feeding the bird a nectar mix intended for honeyeaters and lorrikeets, but are aware that nectar should not make up the majority of his diet - insects should. Is there some way we could get him some insects, or at least some sort of substitute?

He's caught a fly or two on his own, but we're reluctant to keep him outside 24/7 as he's ground-ridden and a couple of cats live next door. He's comfortable approaching us and being hand-fed.

Edit: We purchased some insectivore mix (and checked the ingredients carefully) intended for honeyeaters and other types of wild birds. He's taken a liking to it, and there's been a noticeable change in his behaviour. Hopefully his wing will grow out a bit faster with the added protein in his diet.

dwatsonbb's picture

Hi mwarnes, my usual stock standard answer goes in this order

1. Contact a wildlife rescue service in your area, see the link from this site below

Not sure where you are, but here in Tasmania a permit is required to keep most wildlife for rescue and rehabilitation purposes.

2. As hard as it can be, the parents will have abandoned the chick for a reason, survival of the fittest and that sort of thinking

3. As you have taken the bird into care, and it sounds as if it might be doing alright, you could try your local pet shop for things like mealworms and crickets, which we I used to feed injured and sick reptiles. I would assume they could be a healthy substitute for other insects.

I know I have contradicted myself by saying let nature take its course,  and then saying I have rehabbed rescued reptiles. I have done a fair bit of animal rescue, mostly injured wildlife struck by vehicles, and for a while sick and injured reptiles.

All critters which came into my care were assessed appropriately, and if were not suitable for release were humanely euthanised, after all wild things need to be in the wild.

Goodluck and thanks for caring, I hope one day your wattlebird can be free to do its thing. 

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

mwarnes's picture

Hi dwatsonbb, thank you for the detailed reply!

We have contacted Wildlife Victoria, however received a politely paraphrased "we don't care". Their responses have been quite disappointing in the past also, as a few months ago we found a spotted turtle dove with suspected paramyxovirus - devastatingly contagious - but received a similar response :(

He seems to be doing alright aside from the bung wing: he's quite vocal, hops around the yard for the majority of the day, and goes in and out of a cage we have set up outside as he pleases. We're hoping he'll leave us as soon as his wing grows out ... one of his legs used to be noticeably weaker, but the limp is no longer noticable, so there's hope!

We'll definitely have a search around the local pet shops to find some critters for him. Thanks so much for your advice and kind words, they're much appreciated.

Woko's picture

Could I suggest that you begin planting species which are indigenous to your locality & encourage your neighbours & local council to do likewise? That way you’ll eventually have a more natural environment containing the bugs which your next injured Wattlebird will enjoy. You’ll also save yourself a trip to the local pet shop!

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